By Tony Mangia
Name two hazardous materials which appeared in the New York air last week and disrupted the Knicks week. If you said asbestos you are correct but if you added Isiah Thomas you are a true blue Knickerbocker fan.
After last week's asbestos scare at Madison Square Garden postponed Tuesday night game against Orlando, Thomas, currently the head basketball coach at Florida International University, did a one-hour, commercial-free phone interview with Michael Kay on ESPN radio. Zeke professed his desire to become a part of the Knicks organization--once again. Knicks insiders took it as an attempt by Thomas to promote himself in an attempt to take over team president Donnie Walsh's job when he retires.
Walsh had been planning for the future though. He had been trying to hire former St. John's All- American Chris Mullin for the past two years in preparation for a successor after he left. Dolan would not approve the hiring because he felt there were already a couple of candidates in waiting--Glen Grunfeld and John Gabriel.
Mullin, meanwhile, didn't wait around and last week took a job as an NBA in-studio commentator at ESPN where he can now complement his former teammate, Mark Jackson. Jackson, with his real-as-a-schoolyard-foul game calling, is regarded as one of the best basketball analysts on TV while Mullin, with his gym-rat perspective and Canarsie accent, will be a nice bookend for his fellow New Yorker.
This brings everything back to Thomas, like he has a knack of doing. The ex-Piston says he would be content in the role of a Knicks consultant. He was hired in that position by the Knicks in August but was forced down after NBA bylaws forbid college coaches to hold an NBA job at the same time. How long has Zeke been in the league? Doesn't Thomas have a clue about rules and conflict-of-interest regulations?
It remains to be seen if the Knicks had anything to do with Thomas' radio conversation. Three months ago, it was reported that Thomas was prevented by the Knicks from doing an interview on another ESPN radio show. Kay said the Knicks brass prohibited the first interview. Probably to keep his mouth shut and stirring up an already boiling pot.
Why the sudden change of mind now? If Thomas freelanced this interview on his own, does that mean he is pushing his return? If he did, he has balls. The Knicks are improving early in the season and the interview took place during Walsh's rehab and only one day after his Florida International team held its media day in Florida. As one suspicious Knick executive put it, "Great timing, wasn't it?"
Thomas' self-promoting and hidden agendas are nothing new in New York or anywhere for that matter. He said he still has visions of helping the Knicks win a title. "I want to be on the float and I want to get my ring," the former NBA great said.
Walsh is now cleaning up a mess at the Garden, not the asbestos but Thomas'. Walsh's predecessor left the team in shambles and still shows no shame. Credibility? Don't make me laugh. Thomas and MSG were found guilty of harassing in a federal court. It cost the Knicks $11 million. He still calls Anucha Brown Sanders a liar and he has "forgiven" her.
Thomas has amped himself into believing he is the key to the Knicks landing Carmelo Anthony. He bragged that he would have landed LeBron James if he remained team president. If he isn't campaigning for Walsh's job he must be waiting for him to keel over. He claims he thinks about taking over for Walsh, "every single day of the week."
The delusional Thomas defends his track record (average 28 Knicks wins a season) with comments like, " I'll put my draft evaluation record up against any one's" and "I think if you take away that trial (Anucha Brown Sanders), I'm still there, we make the playoffs a couple of times and I don't know if Miami has LeBron or Wade."
Walsh took the high road after he found out about Thomas' remarks. His office has not released an official response, but Walsh said, "I'm not looking down the line. I have nothing to say about comments made by Isiah."
If Thomas is planning a coup, Walsh better have a backup plan. Mullin, Walsh's personal choice as heir is gone and it looks like Dolan is still ga-ga over Thomas. The owner's favorite son must have cast some kind of spell that makes him look like a reincarnation of Red Auerbach. Or maybe he has incriminating photos of his ex-boss? Whatever reason Thomas continues to be on retainer is not good for the Knicks.
There's no rationale why Dolan loves his Isiah. It's like some Judd Apatow bromance. The confused straight man partners with a twisted interloper to make illogical decisions, wreck everything in sight and not get the girl. It is a tired routine.
Thomas says he wants to recruit James in 2014 when the Miami Heat player can opt out of his contract. "I think when he comes to New York and he wins it (a title) in New York, I think he's the greatest player ever," spouted Thomas. It looks like Dolan and his conniving cohort have been inhaling more than asbestos.